Sound Process

It's natural that the more you do something, the more skilled you become. I've gotten better at digitizing since beginning this effort, eighteen months ago. I have to admit that my drive for better sound is completely selfish, and the benefit to you is incidental. My process takes about twice the length of the recording, not including the initial transfer from record to computer. Below I describe my process, in case it may be of use to any of you wishing to begin digitizing your collection.* Certainly I  am no pro, and surely others will have methods that could inform, but I can live with the sound I achieve.

I described my setup awhile ago on this page. Basically and summarizing, I connect my stereo to the iMac in my office, twelve meters away, using doubled CAT 5 cable. I use (and recommend) Amadeus Pro as my sound editing tool. While digitizing a (previously cleaned) record, I do not listen to it. Actually I completely turn off sound to the speakers, which, according to a source or two, could affect the sound directed to the computer. Usually I digitize two or three albums while doing things around the house, or perhaps photographing record sleeves. Oh, I live off-the-grid and have extremely clean power, but cannot record if I am charging the battery with the generator (when solar is inadequate).

The result is a raw 24-bit AIF sound file produced by Amadeus Pro. I take this file and run it through ClickRepair, a great tool that can remove most clicks from old records. I actually have ClickRepair preferences set modestly to minimize any potential impact on the underlying recording (DeClick @ 25, DeCrackle @ 6). ClickRepair saves a duplicate, partially cleaned AIF file designated as cr.aif; it takes about a minute for a full album. I open that file with Amadeus. Using its sophisticated noise reduction tool, I remove from the entire recording any hum or rumble that might be present on the record. That 'denoising' takes another minute or so.

Click and noise reduction are bulk sound processing tasks that take a few minutes to accomplish; they can produce dramatic results. Amadeus could automatically split the recording into tracks, but I choose to do it manually. I insert the first marker (track name) at 00:00, then insert 0.5 seconds of true silence in place of the 'silence' preceding the beginning of recorded sound. Then through headphones I begin to listen carefully to the recording, which not only is a great joy, but also allows me to find and usually remove any clicks or sound defects missed by ClickRepair. At the end of a song I use the 'fade' tool to reiterate the original fade on the record, which improves the signal/noise ratio at the diminishing volume, yet may trim a second or two from a track. Then the process repeats for each succeeding track: enter track name, insert silence, try to remove remaining sound defects, fade.

After the album is defined, I enter the metadata: album title, musicians, etc. I also attach the cover art, which previously I have optimized using iPhoto. Everything done, I save the file then let Amadeus split the tracks into a folder of lossless tracks that I import directly into iTunes. In iTunes I make a 320 k mp3 copy of the tracks and move them to a new folder, where I have previously stored album art files. After compressing this folder, I upload it to 'the cloud.' While I manipulate the files, I am listening to the complete digital album, and I continue to listen as I compose the blog post. Finally I link the post to the sound you will hear, and publish it. Enjoy!

*P.S. If you have languishing records in my preferred genres that you would be interested in having me process for you, send me an email. I'll exchange your record for a lossless digital copy, if it is one I 'need' for my collection.